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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

“On anniversary of attacks, we must stand up for peace”

The days directly following Sept. 11, 2001, though in many ways the darkest this nation has seen in decades, were nonetheless marked by an outpouring of national unity and brotherly love. For a few days, it seemed the vicious attacks had served to unite a nation around its most basic values: freedom and equality.

But as the days stretched into weeks, fear took over. The nation turned to war, and too many of its citizens took out their rage on innocent Middle Eastern and Muslim Americans.

Today, nearly nine years later, fear is what seems to have stuck.

Twenty percent of Americans believe President Barack Obama is a Muslim. Of course, by Muslim, they don’t mean a follower of the religion of Islam. The word has become shorthand for something ugly — a traitor and a threat.

That fact became clear when plans to build an Islamic cultural center near ground zero in New York City were met with knee-jerk, vitriolic protests. The plan has been compared to building a Nazi monument near the Holocaust Museum, a fact that speaks volumes about what Muslim has come to represent in this country. The comparison is disgusting, but it has taken root in the American psyche to a disturbing degree.

Anti-Muslim hysteria came to a head last week, when pastor Terry Jones, head of a Christian church in Florida, announced a plan to burn copies of the Quran on the ninth anniversary of the terrorist attacks. The act, Jones told CNN, would serve as a warning to Islamic extremists.

Jones has since canceled the plan, but only after he received overwhelming criticism from across the nation and world. Both Gen. David Petraeus and Defense Secretary Robert Gates urged Jones not to go through with the Quran burning, saying it would endanger U.S. troops abroad.

Though the cancellation is a relief, it’s hardly laudable. It’s also shocking that Jones and his congregation’s plan to destroy the holy text of one of the world’s largest religions got past the drawing board. Someone, a church leader or congregation member, should have seen the hate seething through such a plan, and called foul. Someone should have stood up for peace and tolerance, supposed tenets of Christianity. Someone should have put a stop to the plan long before the media got hold of it.

Sadly, it’s not just one Florida church that deserves criticism. It’s a whole nation.

The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks were meant to tear us asunder, to murder innocent citizens in a way so vile, so unconscionable, we’d never recover. The terrorists set out to force Americans to live in just that — terror.

And they have. Rather than find a way to turn those initial days of unity into a national push for peace and tolerance, we’ve turned on one another, and on the world around us. We’ve made Muslim and immigrant dirty words. Instead of learning to stand together, we’ve learned to accuse one another, to point fingers and cast stones.

Tomorrow should be a day of remembrance, but we can’t continue to let it be just that. Sept. 11 cannot stand for hatred, as people like Terry Jones desire. It must become a symbol of the America we want to become, a nation untouched by fear.

— Editorials are determined by the Daily Wildcat opinions board and written by one of its members. They are Heather Price-Wright, Colin Darland and Steven Kwan. They can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.  

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